At 4,500-Plus Downloads Per Week, 'AdExchanger Talks' Wins With Content and Humanity

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We should not be intimidated by podcasts. We should be excited. Get a good guest, ask questions for 2 or 4 or 20 or 38 minutes and put it out there. If you can keep it going, you can build up quite an archive.

"When [we] decided to launch [AdExchanger Talks], an interview-format podcast focused on media and marketing technology, the seniority of the guests was foremost in our minds," wrote Access Intelligence's AdExchanger senior editor Tilde Herrera in their first-place, 2018 SIPAward-winning entry for Best Podcast. "In the first half of 2017, [executive editor] Zach Rodgers recorded interviews with CEOs from Omnicom Group, Bleacher Report, The Trade Desk, The New York Times and Vox Media. These are fascinating people and companies, and for that reason the podcast has really found its audience."

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They have indeed—to the tune of a baseline of 4,500 downloads per episode, sometimes as much as 5,000 if they have an industry rock star, Rodgers told me this week. "No one should be intimidated by podcasts," he said. "It's a good way to do journalism, and it can really be a key arrow in your quiver for any media brand. It's extending the ways you can touch people. 

AdExchanger discovered something else along the way. "It was important to Zach that these interviews touch not only on marketing themes, but also the human side of the industry," Herrera wrote. "He set aside some time in each episode for a few personal questions: What motivates you? Why did your career take the course that it did? That intimate touch has worked, we think. It has helped us find new audiences while presenting loyal readers with an engaging new format that humanizes our coverage."

They just recorded Episode 118—congratulatons!—so it is working. Rodgers is a thorough interviewer and an easy-going host, and it comes through. When he has a tough time with the word "citizenship," he pronounces it again slowly and correctly, adding a little chuckle at his own expense. "I'll ask him about Brexit—why not," he says. (The guest is British.) Rodgers' style practices exactly what AdExchanger preaches—that humanity.

AdExchanger Talks opens with the requisite music and then goes right into a sponsor message and a plug for the sponsor's chief product officer to appear later on the show. (Rodgers said sponsorships are doing very well.) Rodgers then introduces the guest and after a couple minutes, we're at ease. In Episode 118's case, the guest says he's ready to go. "Ask me anything."

"Okay, everything is on the table," Rodgers replies and then a bit under his breath, "He's going to regret saying that."

Big audiences now download and listen to podcasts at their leisure—51% of Americans have listened and of that number, 80% stay tuned for all or most of each podcast episode. Almost a third of our population have listened to a podcast in the last month. One other interesting stat—36% of podcast listeners are non-white so it has the potential to diversify your audience.

For each episode, Rodgers writes an article to go next to the recording—a move that draws more engagement and is quicker and more economical than a transcript. Though if you can do a transcript... After 18 minutes, Rodgers takes a break to speak with the sponsor rep for two minutes and then does another 17 minutes with his main guest. That's a bit on the high side for a show, but Rodgers says that's what he thinks the average commute is and that's when most people listen.

Spidell Publishing won a 2018 third place SIPAward in the Best Podcast category for their California Minute. (In reality, their podcasts run between 2 and 4 minutes.) The point is that your podcasts can be any length as long as the content is good and it addresses your audience's needs and interests. (Studies say about 22 minutes is the average audience tune-out mark.)

AdExchanger actually added another podcast back in July. The Big Story features roundtable discussion on the week's top news stories with the their editorial team. This is a great way to get more exposure for your editorial team—and have them let loose a bit. 

"That podcast was launched based on the success of this one," Rodgers said. "They just start talking about [industry] news of the day and significant developments." He added that they're even considering a third one – "if we can differentiate it from the other two. There's an audience and it’s not a fad." For now, the two podcasts are bundled for sponsors.

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…